Addicts in rehab next to get COVID-19 vaccine, Cuomo says

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Recovering addicts in residential rehab facilities will be among those vaccinated against the coronavirus this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo obliquely revealed Monday.

During a virtual news conference in Albany, Cuomo said the state was expecting to receive a combined 259,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

In addition to urgent care center employees and “individuals who are administering the COVID-19 vaccines, for obvious reasons,” Cuomo said that shots would be given to residents of “OASAS” — the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

The agency runs 12 treatment centers across the state, with five located in or around New York City, and also certifies and monitors “hundreds” of private facilities, according to its website. 

“These are congregate facilities. Congregate facilities are problematic. That’s where you have a lot of people in concentration,” Cuomo said.

Nursing homes are obviously the most problematic because they’re congregate plus older, vulnerable people. OASAS facilities, what we call the O facilities, they’re congregate — not necessarily older — but congregate facilities.”

Residents and staffers will be vaccinated at both the state-run and privately operated rehab centers, as well as at facilities run or licensed by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Mental Health, according to the state Department of Health.

Emergency medical services personnel, medical examiners and coroners and some funeral workers will also get shots, a DOH spokeswoman said.

Luke Nasta, a director of the New York Association of Substance Abuse Providers, said the non-profit group had lobbied for rehab patients to receive vaccinations.

Nasta, CEO of the Camelot Family Foundation — which runs two residential treatment centers on Staten Island — said it made sense to give the shots to drug users because they were most likely “to get the disease and spread it.”

“We were overlooked initially. We got the governor’s office’s attention and Gov. Cuomo acted appropriately,” he said.

Meanwhile, the percentage of New Yorkers who tested positive for coronavirus jumped from 5.8 percent to 8.3 percent over the three-day Christmas weekend, Cuomo said.

The spike could show that a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases is gaining steam or merely be an aberration caused by fewer people getting tested because of the holiday, he said.

More certain were the COVID-19-related hospitalizations that rose to 7,559 statewide — up 376 — and the 114 fatalities blamed on the respiratory disease, which brought the state’s death toll to 29,629.

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